Generally speaking, “fair trade” means slave-free and child-labor free, which means that the person who made the product was not exploited. Further, it means the person was paid a fair, living wage for the country they live in.
So, in a nutshell, buying Fair Trade certified products is human trafficking prevention.
Let’s compare two Third World communities. Community 1: Everyone is struggling to earn enough so their families can eat. Parents can’t consider sending their children to school, because the children must work to help provide food for the family. Sometimes, that is still not enough. They may sell a daughter to provide income to feed the rest of the family. Or, believing the lies of an acquaintance who offers to educate the child “in the city”, they may allow their child to leave the community for “a better life”. Sadly, those children are usually sold to brothels or labor traffickers and are almost never heard from again.
There is little hope that life will ever get better.
Community 2 has the benefit of nonprofit assistance from a developed country. The community developer provides microloans so that women can buy sewing machines. They sew clothes and sell them locally, and through markets that the nonprofit connects them to. They sell the items they make, and because the quality is good and the supply is dependable, orders increase and they are able to not only pay back the loan, but buy more sewing machines and hire more local women. The women make enough money to support their families, which means the children can go to school. There is no temptation to sell the children or send them away for “a better life”.
The family is intact, well-fed, and the children receive education. Those children have the benefit of seeing their parent working in a thriving business. Perhaps one day they will create their own business, or perhaps they will be able to continue their education to the next level .
Supporting Fair Trade means supporting hard working families who want to earn an honest, dignified living. It helps to create strong families and strong communities. It creates opportunities for people to help themselves and to be independent. It is very different from “aid” which so often creates dependence on outside help.
Communities where adults are able to earn a fair, living wage are far less vulnerable to human traffickers, and less likely to be targeted.
When we buy Fair Trade Certified products, we are preventing human trafficking.
Ok, you’re convinced! So, where can you buy these products?
The three Fair Trade products that are easiest to find in grocery stores are coffee, tea, and chocolate. Some specialty or gourmet food stores may have more choices like sugar, spices, nuts, honey, fruit and more.
There are local, independent Fair Trade stores in Beaufort, Durham, Raleigh, Asheville and other North Carolina cities. Ten Thousand Villages is a Fair Trade non-profit store, and there are several locations in North Carolina.
Several established Fair Trade groups have “search” features on their websites to help you find Fair Trade products from soccer balls to shoes to cookware. Here are three: Fair Trade Federation www.fairtradefederation.org; Fair Trade USA, http://fairtradeusa.org and World Fair Trade Organization http://www.wfto.com/ .
And, of course, there is the internet. Just search for Fair Trade and literally millions of options will pop up.
With the Advent and Christmas seasons upon us, consider Fair Trade gifts, the gifts that give twice: your loved one receives a meaningful gift that can’t be bought at every department store in the country, and a vulnerable person in a Third World country receives the gift of earning a dignified living.